Kupuna hours are great, but health officials worry of unintended consequences

Kupuna hours are great, but health officials worry of unintended consequences

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As stores began offering special kupuna hours to accommodate the elderly, concerns were raised about unintended consequences.

The special hours are to help protect older folks of the community.

Several grocery stores reserve a few hours a week for those in certain age groups or with pre-existing medical conditions so they won’t have to fight larger crowds to get essential goods, keeping their risk for exposure to coronavirus low.

But the special hours have been so well received that crowds of elderly shoppers now gather in line, which is worrying Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

“When I see a large number of kupuna gathering for groceries four feet away from each other, I see tragedy and body bags in the future,” Lt. Gov Josh Green said.

Lines at stores stretch into the parking lots, with many just standing a shopping cart’s distance away — less than the suggested six feet for social distancing requirements.

“There are some people who, you’re looking at something and they’ll come right up to you and they’re not being inconsiderate or nothing, they just don’t realize what they’re doing,” said grocery shopper Barbara Paulo. “I just move away politely.”

Some places have markers on the floor to space out the lines, but some stores don’t have the space to do that.

“I wish we could come up with another way to get people the necessary items they need,” Dr. Sarah Park said. “Because every time I hear about the crowds at Costco, or runs on toilet paper, I’m cringing. My staff are cringing because it’s unduly bringing people together."

Officials recommend sending just one person to do the shopping rather than multiple people.

New services have also been set up to reduce the need for kupuna to go out.

One of those services includes the OurKupuna Website, where good neighbors can adopt a kupuna and check in on them weekly, helping them get what they need.

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